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14 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie and Shared Humanity

Oh, it's been a hard week in France. It has been 7 full days since the initial horror of the shootings in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The days of senseless regard for life continued on through Friday. Everywhere, even here in our Norman town, signs were posted. "Je suis Charlie" ... "I am Charlie." Instantly, this became a very personal event for France

These events have been devastating for the country. It's a very "9/11" feel here for the French. Of course, there is the loss of life and the shock, grief, and fear that follows. What has also been interesting to me is how much the circumstances and target of the violence, satirical political journalists, has utterly outraged the French. The issue of "libertĂ©" is very deeply apart of their cultural DNA. As Americans, it can perhaps be hard to understand all of it, particularly associated with a rather intentionally-offensive magazine/publication. But this form of satirical commentary is centuries old for the French. (Ever remember seeing some of Marie Antoinette from the French Revolution? Even citizens who couldn't read had a chance to be a part of the thought and controversies of the day.) It was explained to me that part of how thoughts and freedom and ideas are expressed here ... whether you agree or not ... are very much linked to "cartoons" of the Charlie Hebdo's of France. 

On Sunday, we had the opportunity to join our French neighbors to eat a traditional New Year's galette and watch the Paris march take place. A march where near 2 million people were brought together in an act of unity. Walking, crying, even erupting into collective clapping and cheering ... together. 

Sitting there, in the living room of Madame L., watching the event unfold ... it was a moment in history and an experience I shall not soon forget. I was struck that even in our our grief, even in our differences, our shared humanity is such a deeply beautiful thing.

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